Consuming With The Intention to Create

I recently took a short (but still way longer than I wanted) break from blogging and here I am now, writing away because I just watched Tara Martin in action for the #IMMOOC episode and she made me want to get back into it. To be honest, I like blogging- it makes me reflect on what I am doing, what I am learning, and it allows me to connect the scattered dots inside my head. It gives me something to show for the never ending ideas and thoughts that run marathons inside my head. I do it for myself as it makes me feel as thought I’ve accomplished something that is meaningful to me.

Blogging is one of those things that, for me, take time. It’s no secret to my friends, family and new colleagues that I am Type A ( side note – my admin calls me 4A – you can imagine why!) and so for me, writing a post takes more time than it should (just ask Annick, co-writing blog posts with me is painful!). When I write, I over analyse and question, then edit and again and again until it’s early in the morning and I finally realize I’m doing this for myself – so I  hit publish. In light of Tara Martin being R.E.A.L. tonight and always, I’m allowing myself to be R.E.A.L. with this post because in the past few months, I’ve been feeling extreme guilt for several reasons:

  • #1– Signing up for #IMMOOC knowing far too well that I wouldn’t be able to participate as much as I would like. I keep reminding myself that something is better than nothing. One tweet is better than none.
  • #2 – Putting work first, family second and myself last. This is nothing new, but my work/life balance has hit an all-time low. Being hired in a a new school that opened this September, I want things to be just right (remember my 4A moniker). And it’s not even like I’m the sole leader in my classroom. I wholeheartedly believe that students should be doing the bulk of their learning so they have a sense of pride, ownership and feel they are contributing to their person, their school and their community. But since only three of my students knew each other from their previous schools, my priority is pouring a solid foundation for the learning that will take place and building relationships as a group so my students feel they can lead successfully in an environment where they feel safe and encouraged to take risks. I also feel the need to prove to others that I deserve the golden ticket that was handed to me when I was hired. That in itself is stressful because I am not even close to where I would usually be and nowhere near where I  thought we would currently be. That being said, I constantly remind myself that things that matter take time.
  • #3 – For the very first time in my life, I have not met one of my own deadlines which was finishing my Master’s degree in Inclusive Education before the start of this new school year. I know it sounds ridiculous. How lucky am I to have everything I’ve ever wanted and for this to be what’s eating me inside? But if you knew me, you would know how excruciating it is for me to have failed myself even though I still have plenty of time left in my program. I completed my  10 course load in two years, working full time, while having baby number 3, surviving appendicitis, a first born’s broken foot, a second born’s ENT surgery, and applying for my dream job (which I got!).  But I had planned on finishing  my final paper in the twelve months that followed. Needless to say,  I’ve recently had to push my deadline one last time which is disappointing to me because had I finished in my given timeline, this would have relieved so much pressure and stress from my body especially as I started this new teaching position. Wherever I go and whatever I do, this final project is an incredible weight I carry with me at all times similar to those commercials you see on tv about debt – watch here. On top of that, in order to finish, I need to hand some of my responsibilities over to my amazing husband and give up some playing time with my kids to get it done. My entire family is sacrificing themselves while I pursue this goal. I feel selfish for compromising so much of their time. I long for the freedom I thought I would have had at this point and time of the year to reinvest in myself, my family and my classroom.

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But this post isn’t really about guilt, is it. It’s about what I am going to do now that plan A wasn’t realistic for me in the past year. It’s about unexpected twists and turns in life and how we deal with change. It’s about how I accept my new timelines and see my perceived failure as a way to showcase my resilience and grit. It’s about proving to myself that I am not less of a learner because I didn’t reach my set goal in the time frame I gave myself. It’s about making a plan B to make it work. I bring this example up because in my mind, it relates exactly to the message that was said tonight between Tara and Katie Martin. It’s ok to consume content, but if your talents are never unleashed, and your ideas never shared or tested, what good are they?  In regards to my final M.Ed. paper, my Type A-ness feels that I need to read all to understand all because I’ll never be able to sum up the subject in its entirety without reading everything I can get my hands on. I could read and read and read scientific articles until I die. There will always be new content coming out. Reality is, my paper will never “feel” complete and I have to be ok with that. My M.Ed. adviser told me just this when we met for our goal setting meeting this past Thursday, “Nycol, there is no end. At some point, you have to stop researching and write.”  You can imagine how meaningful tonight’s message was for me. At some point, you have to allow yourself some time to stop consuming to create. What you contribute will have a greater impact.img_5027

Special thanks to :
– My neighborhood colleagues who remind me we are in this together.
– My PLF (as Tara would say), who I believe are the Duracell batteries to my bunny.
– My M.Ed. adviser, Sylvie, who sees me as I should see myself. Thanks for sending me motivational quotes when I need them most.
– Nicole, my text reminder who’s been through it herself!
– My husband and kids who are my constant cheerleaders and heart fillers. They remind me what is REAL.

 

 

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I’m In Love With Your Knowledge

This blog post was co-written by Nycol Didcote and Annick Rauch, best friends who always support, push and encourage one another. We are so lucky to be working together again this September at École Sage Creek School, a new school opening up in the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Last April, Annick and I headed to Connect 2017, Canada’s Learning & Technology Conference, in beautiful Niagara Falls. There, we met and connected with many amazing educators who were not only incredible leaders in education, but fundamentally incredible people, too. They all seemed to have an amazing work/life balance and also took time to have fun. One of these educators was Brian Aspinall. Shortly after leaving Niagara, I noticed he took vlogging to a new level with his “EDU Carpool Karaoke” which made my day. Remembering all the amazing and fun educators who took risks at the Niagara Ignite event, hosted by Fair Chance Learning, I decided to take a risk and give the EDU Karaoke a go myself. Shortly after, Annick was challenged and a few others jumped on the bandwagon. Brian later stepped up his game by introducing a golf-cart edition of edu karaoke-genius!

Then, one morning in May, I (Annick) was driving to work and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You came on the radio, as it often does, but this time, with EDU Carpool Karaoke fresh in my mind, inspiration hit me. I couldn’t help but think how this amazingly catchy song would make a great EDU style song. Ideas were flowing, but I couldn’t pull off such a thing alone. A few quick texts later, Nycol was on board with yet another one of my crazy ideas, and we hit the ground running! Yes, it is now the end of August and we just finally finished up this project, but after we started in May, report card time hit, then we wrapped up the school year, packed our boxes, and we’ve both had busy summers. Although it took longer than we had hoped, we are here now, and hope you enjoy our creation!

A few notes before you watch:

  • We both love singing and know that we are not great singers (but we don’t care, it’s all about our message and having fun!!) You may want to turn your volume down juuusssst a tad! 😉
  • We are always talking about risk taking and modelling in education – this is what this video is all about. We put ourselves out there and this is something that we will be able to show our students as an example of a risk we took.
  • We know the importance of being a lifelong learner and the power that being a connected educator can have on our learning. This is how our song was born, placing the emphasis on thanking our amazing PLC and encouraging others to join and get connected.

So thank you to all those (past, present, and future) who shape us into who we are as teachers everyday. From our in person PLC to our online PLC, you are all amazing and we appreciate each and every one of you!

So, here it is, Brian! With this, we are one upping your Carpool Karaoke AND your golf-cart edition of edu karaoke!

Deep breath, here goes nothing…. 🙂

 

Drive Through the Fog

img_3981I love the month of August. It’s a time where I reflect deeply on my teaching and learning goals for the upcoming year. It’s a time where my family gets back on track with our oh so needed routines so we are refreshed and relaxed come the September chaos. It’s also the time where I, like all other teachers, prep my mind and my classroom for the next ten months of learning that are ahead and just around the bend.

Before summer arrived, I had applied for and accepted a teaching position in a brand new school, which I truly believe was made to be my dream job.  I say this because everything this school is known to represent, I believe in: innovation, collaboration, progress, global learning and the list goes on. Last week, as I was leaving the house to get started on prepping my new learning and working space, I got up early because I too need to start getting into my new routine. I woke up and left the house at the time when I will be leaving every morning from Monday to Friday this September and trust me – it’s much earlier than when I left for school last year.

It was so early the air was still crisp and the dew seeped into the light grey fabric of my shoes, making them three shades darker. There wasn’t the usual hustle and bustle of families getting out the door, kids riding their bikes or dogs being walked by their owners. There were few cars on their way to where they were headed. It reminded me of the commute I had three years ago- because soon came the fog.

As I started driving, part of me contemplated whether I should continue or wait for the fog to settle. I decided to carry on because I had driven through thick fog before – this wasn’t a first. I knew that it was just a matter of time until the sun warmed up and cleared the horizon. Although the thick white blanket appeared menacing, once I approached it, my surroundings became less hazy. I could make out shapes and familiar farmhouses. I could always see from a short distance what was immediately ahead of me. Not once did I feel threatened or in danger. I was relieved that I didn’t wait for the fog to settle because I could maximize the time to start working in my classroom. I’m so excited to be in my classroom!

Immediately, it made me think of the year I have ahead in this new environment. The building and the school yard has amazing learning spaces. And better yet, the people I am surrounded by are all team players. As I join this group of incredible people, striving individually and collectively for something greater than what we have ever experienced, my mind sometimes gets foggy. Foggy because there are still many unknowns. Foggy from all the strategies and tools I could use next year to make our school culture thrive. Foggy from all of the quotes that resonated with me from my professional development books I was reading over the summer. Foggy from not knowing exactly how the year will unfold, because in my classroom there’s only so much I can do until my students arrive. Foggy from the potential and all of the possibilities. But as I literally drove through the fog, all of a sudden my surroundings became clear. And I know that the fog inside my brain will soon dissipate as well because I realized that the missing piece that will make my fog dissipate isn’t waiting on the shelves that have yet to arrive- it’s meeting my students and their families. I’ve always known who the kids I was going to teach were. I always spent my time getting to know the students who would be moving in with me the following year. I start building those relationships early, before they even know they may be in my classroom, before I even know if they will be in my class. Last year, I didn’t get the chance to see my students, meet them, converse with them, and compliment them. That’s why even though I have been teaching for 8 years now, I feel as though I’m a first year: new building, new classroom, new students, new colleagues. But even though for now, I feel a bit out of my comfort zone, I have all of the optimism and energy a new teacher has.

The saying “A comfort zone is a beautiful thing but nothing ever grows there” rings true. Some days, as a teacher, the fog will be so thick you’ll think of staying where you are and continuing what you’ve always been doing. You won’t take the risk of leaving your comfort zone because you feel as though the unknowns will paralyze you. You stay safe – not risking the negative “what ifs” that could arise. I ask you the same question: What if your ideas turn out amazing? What if the ideas inside your head become those moments your students hold onto forever? What if students build resiliency failing forward, when things don’t go as planned? What if your classroom became “real life” rather than “by the book”?

Once you take the road less traveled a few times, it will become familiar to you, kind of like me driving through the fog. So next time you hesitate on applying for that new job, or on letting your students take the lead because you are caught up in those negative what ifs and worried you won’t know the final outcome – just drive and let them drive. Take the risk you’ve been contemplating. Move forward. Push yourself through uncertainty and get through it one step at a time. Because once you approach what looks like a barrier to your destination, you’ll notice pieces get clearer as you move through the motions. In a classroom setting, let your students take the wheel to learn what driving (critical thinking) through the fog is. Your amazing ideas will always be foggy until you live them. Once you have, you’ll see that learning is living. Learning needs to move and wonder and wander. It needs to travel; it can’t stay at a standstill. You won’t get anywhere interesting if you stay in the same spot. Drive through the fog – even if it’s not at the speed limit. Just keep moving. You and your students will thank you for it once you come out the other side and see the sun shining bright.

Note: No filters needed for these pictures taken on my drive to work. I look forward to my commute to reflect and listen to podcasts and audio books (Innovator’s Mindset audio book, and hopefully other DBC an IMpress audio books can’t come fast enough!) to clear my mind.

Build Their Character – Don’t Make Them Become One

It’s late and as usual, I give my social media accounts a glance before bed. This summer, while being at home with my kids who are 5, 3 and 1, (I won’t go by months, because I know how annoying that is for some people :P), I’ve been conscious about not being on my phone so much and to be present and engaged so that I catch those moments that slip by so easily when we are hiding behind screens. (Note that I am all for Social Media and that when the time comes, I will be teaching my kids how and when to use it appropriately so they understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint- Social LEADia  IS my next read, after all!! :).

Forgive me for rambling-I’m known to do so on occasion as my mind wonders and wanders!! As I was saying – as I was sitting in bed checking our school #SageCreekLRSD, I came across a Tweet from my principal wanting to know our thoughts on this picture. I had to get out of bed and blog about it, because 140 characters didn’t allow me to express my thoughts thoroughly. I’m also known to be a night owl so here I go….why not?!

Immediately- I agreed with Tom Loud‘s tweet. Since I joined the world of Twitter for the purpose of growing my PLN and learning from people who are passionate and driven, I find myself liking and retweeting many of his thoughts. When I read something that resonates with me, I like it and retweet it so I can reference it later. But then, my principal pushed my thinking by asking us to reflect on this statement. If it was an either or, I would definitely chose the later statement because as we know it, success can be defined in more ways than one and if I were to teach my students how to be successful based on my definition of the word, I would be unsuccessful in doing so. But in this case, I don’t believe it’s a one or none option. That, is the beauty of teaching, leading and learning.

I believe resiliency needs to be taught and modeled in classrooms and in homes- but being successful and what it means to be successful is a topic that deserves to be discussed with our students. I do agree it is crucial to teach them how to respond when they are not successful, but would also add that it is as important, if not more important to discuss how to respond when others aren’t succeeding. Do we stare, let them be, give them space? Do we offer help, ask them a question, notice their struggle? That whole collaboration piece can be and usually is the solution. Brian Aspinall said it himself – when we’re stuck and need ideas, we go to google. Responding to others’ needs and offering help (and asking for help) is empathy at its finest – which is a point I think we can all agree on –  that empathy is an ability we want our students and children to develop.

Earlier this week, I was watching one of Brian Aspinall‘s TEdx Talks on Education Reform. At one point, he explains the impact his Papa had on him growing up and how his teachings changed once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brian then shares with us how he still continued to learn from his Papa, even though he had Alzheimer’s, by watching him work. This man never gave up and was determined to find a solution to a given problem. He remained persistent even when the task became challenging. In a classroom setting, having explicit discussions are important, but we can’t forget that our students also learn from observation. They are always watching, feeling, and tuned-in, which is why it is so important we respond appropriately when we, as teachers, are not successful. What we choose to say and what we don’t say both give students a message. I believe the statement in this picture can and should be a message intended not only for kids themselves, but adults as well. This tweet also ties in well to Brian Aspinall‘s latest Golf Cart Vlog Reflection – How Do We Evaluate Failure?In his vlog, Brian mentions the importance of defining failure, the concept of embracing it, providing good feedback, and reevaluating evaluation.

In the picture shown at the top of the post, we talk about not being successful. My interpretation of these few words is synonymous to failure. Keep in mind though that I am one of those who believe failure is proof that we are trying. That failure gives us feedback into trying again but while changing a variable, tweaking, tinkering and reflecting to ultimately find a solution or to better ourselves. Failing is a way to move forward. To me failing is a reason to not give up and to persist in order to reach the objective we’ve set for our self. I am one of those fail-forward-type-thinking people. Failing is not black and white as long as we are learning from the moments when we are “not successful”. Attitude has so much to do with how we see failure and/or success for that matter.

To wrap it up, because I don’t like reading long blog posts myself – I think the best thing we can do for kids as teachers is to reflect on such statements and push our own thinking, especially in times where we are unsuccessful, which subsequently will have an impact on our students mindset and mindsight. As Brian puts it, and the saying on the picture suggests – “We need to shift our(their) thinking from failure is bad, to failure is good.”

I also want my students to create content and not just consume it. Consumption is playing the game of school. George Couros has mentioned this many times before including when he spoke to our staff in April. I don’t want my students playing the game of school because I played that game and like many of my PLN friends, even though I won each and every year, in the end I came out losing. I lost opportunities to think critically, to speak my own mind, to fail and take risks and embrace the process of learning. It’s only since becoming a teacher that I am catching up alongside my students. They say that as a parent, you want your child to have a better upbringing than you had yourself. The same is true for what I want for my students.

I want my students to be makers not fakers. Read John Spencer‘s post “Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset” here , to understand why making and creating is so important when developing students’ character. I want these qualities to last their lifetime – not just the duration of the school year. As my title suggests, I want my students to build their character while staying true to who they are….not become a character in an everyday play for ten months to “succeed”. This isn’t a play or a game. School is a big part of their everyday life. Make it matter.

PBL in my Class of First Graders 

This post is a response to Frenchteach, who recently asked me through Twitter how I’ve done PBL in my classroom.

This morning as I was driving, a Twitter friend, Fenchteach, asked me how I have used PBL in my classroom. Although there are no limitations and that the projects ultimately come from the students, here area few examples I’ve done this past year to marry curriculum content and students’ interests to answer our big questions in Grade 1. All of these projects were a hit and witnessing student growth was so rewarding. The best part is not having to go through 25 carbon copy “projects”. Some were individual and others were collaborative which kept student engagement high and empowered them as they went through the motions.  I hope these inspire you, Frenchteach, with your university course this summer and that your students get to live yours out next school year! ​

​See pictures and short descriptions below! If you have any further questions, let me know!
Bon succès!

Nycol

Example 1: ​Traditions, Seasons and Community

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Example 2 : Gardening, Growth and Changes in Living Things, Math, Health

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Example 3: Community: 2D and 3D

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